Leading Indian paper chides Delhi on Myanmar trade

An editorial in a leading Indian newspaper has chided successive New Delhi governments for not doing more to build stronger trade and business ties with Myanmar.

The editorial in The Hindu Business Line newspaper was published on October 19, the last day of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s first visit to India as State Counsellor.

The visit was a reminder “that India has vast ground to cover if it hopes to match Chinese influence over Myanmar,” the editorial said.

It said the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, had hailed Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit as an opportunity to further boost the full range of India’s partnership with Myanmar.

The comment deserved scrutiny as a statement of intent to infuse a sense of urgency in India’s efforts to realise the full potential “of this critical bilateral partnership”, the editorial said.

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“Intent apart, the reality is that bilateral trade between India and Myanmar has been woefully below potential,” it said.

Although New Delhi had highlighted India’s position as Myanmar’s fourth largest trading partner after bilateral trade reached US$1.75 billion (about K2.25 trillion) in 2014-2015, “a rough comparison with China puts the picture in perspective”.

It said trade between Myanmar and China reached $9.5 billion in the first 10 months of 2015-2016. China had also invested $15.418 billion in 115 projects, making it the biggest investor in Myanmar.

“While India is still pledging to enhance its engagement in the agriculture, power, renewable energy and power sectors, the Chinese are already financing new ports, highways and dams in Myanmar,” the editorial said.

It said the expression of intent to strengthen the partnership had to be backed by encouraging Indian businesses to invest in Myanmar, open hospitals and further increase pharmaceutical exports, as well as improving transportation infrastructure.

“A lackadaisical and half-hearted approach, as seen in the three-year delay in the scheduled opening this year of the trilateral India-Myanmar-Thailand highway, does not help in recovering lost ground,” the editorial said.

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